Hits and misses

September 13, 2011
Hits and misses

*** Exceptional  ** Excellent * Very Good

Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

To evaluate some of the store-exclusive wines available in the Washington area, I tried the three “A Collaboration” wines from Whole Foods Market and three private-label wines from Trader Joe’s. I am not including exclusive wines from Total Wine & More, because they are not marketed as such; there is nothing on the labels to indicate that the wines are available only at Total.

A Collaboration Syrah 2009

**

Columbia Valley, Wash., $20 to $24

Syrah is challenging merlot and cabernet sauvignon as Washington state’s top red wine, but for reasons that befuddle many wine professionals, American-made syrah still hasn’t caught on with consumers. This one is quite good, with ripe blueberry and smoky meat flavors and excellent balance.

Available in the District at Whole Foods Market Georgetown (Glover Park) and Tenleytown locations.

A Collaboration Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

* 1/2

Columbia Valley, Wash., $20 to $24

This wine shows nice cabernet flavor and flair, with aromas of black currants and raspberries accented with mint, followed by dark fruit flavors braced with just enough oak to give it structure without overpowering the wine. This is an excellent partner to any red meat dish, especially off the grill.

Available in the District and Virginia at various Whole Foods Market locations.

VINTJS Chardonnay Chalk Hill 2009

* 1/2

Sonoma County, Calif., $9

It’s a very nice chardonnay, ripe with orchard fruit and just enough oak. A steal for the price among a boatload of unfocused, blurry-tasting competitors. Chalk Hill, in northern Sonoma County, is an area noted for chardonnay.

Available at Trader Joe’s.

A Collaboration Sauvignon Blanc 2009

*

Columbia Valley, Wash., $15 to $20

The sauvignon blanc from the Whole Foods effort is sturdy though perhaps a bit tired; a fresher vintage might perform better. It is recognizably sauvignon blanc, but there are better examples at this price and below of what the grape can do.

Available in the District and Virginia at various Whole Foods Market locations.

Trader Joe’s Reserve Chardonnay 2009

Not recommended

Napa Valley, Calif., $10

If you’ve ever heard wine geeks complaining about overripe, clumsily oaked California chardonnay, this is what they mean. It’s really like being socked in the kisser with an alcoholic two-by-four. Someone needs to learn that wine is not made from trees.

Available at Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s Grower’s Reserve Zinfandel 2010

Not recommended

Paso Robles, Calif., $5

I wanted to like this wine, which is labeled as made from certified organic grapes. At first sniff, it smelled pleasantly like zinfandel, with spicy raspberry and cranberry aromas. But the flavors were weedy and stewed, and the harsh finish left an impression of paint thinner. There are better boxed wines in the three-liter format at an equivalent price.

Available at Trader Joe’s.

Dave McIntyre is the wine columnist for The Washington Post. He also blogs at dmwineline.com.
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